Local food pantries see more visitors
By BRITTANY FHOLER
As shelves at local grocery stores fluctuate between full and bare, the local food pantries continue to provide much needed food and meals to people in the community.
My Brother’s House, the food pantry associated with the Holy Family Catholic Church, received a delivery of an estimated 8,000 pounds of food from the Central Texas Food Bank in Austin Friday morning, which pantry manager James Glowinski says will last the pantry about two to three weeks. The next truck delivery will be in two weeks.
Glowinski said that the pantry has also received food from H-E-B, Walmart and Aldi.
As more people are facing the loss of their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter in place orders are issued in other counties, more people are needing assistance.
Glowinski said that he estimated the pantry would serve up to 35 people on Friday.
Typically, the people served by My Brother’s House qualify based on income and need, but Glowinski said that in light of the pandemic, regulations on who gets food have been loosened and anybody in need of food could show up.
“We basically are giving food to whoever needs it,” Glowinski said. “We try to restrict it to this area because we can’t feed all of Texas.”
Glowinski said it is extremely important for the pantry to continue to operate and help people.
“Really what has happened is some people who have credit cards and have the ability, they went and bought all the food they could, panic buying,” Glowinski said. “The people we have in here, they’re the lower end, so they didn’t have the ability to go in and buy $300 worth of food at one time or $500, so they come in here.”
The pantry is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to noon. People who stop by for food will receive about two weeks’ worth of food in a cardboard box full of canned vegetables and fruit, meat, eggs, milk and more. Glowinski said the boxes weigh about 50 pounds.
My Brother’s House also has a supply of diapers and some cans of formula and jars of baby food for families who need it.
While the pantry is good on food, Glowinski said they are in need of hand sanitizer as well as PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) such as face masks and gloves for volunteers to wear. Financial donations are also welcome.
“(Financial donations), we definitely could use because now with the church being closed, we would get most of our money donations from the church, so that revenue will probably dry up quite a bit,” Glowinski said.
People can contact the Holy Family church office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, by calling 254-547-3735 to find out how to donate.
Another local food bank is Five Loaves, Two Fishes, an outreach ministry of the Five Hills Assembly of God, at 302 E. Avenue D in Copperas Cove.
Volunteer Fay Rocha shared that they receive food from the Benevolence Ministry and the Central Texas Food Bank as well as donations from church members.
Five Loaves, Two Fishes is open as a soup kitchen on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. providing two hot meals and non-perishable items. On Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Five Loaves and Two Fishes provides groceries, including fresh fruits and vegetables.
With the need for social distancing, the volunteers have adapted to a carryout service at the door and by taking extra sanitizing precautions.
Rocha said they had seen an increase in people coming to get food. Earlier, the organization had placed a big order of food to last the soup kitchen at least a month to two months, so they weren’t struggling to find food with the current limits in place at local stores, she added.
Five Loaves, Two Fish will accept both food donations and cash donations, but Rocha said they are really in need of canned soup. For more information, people can call 254-547-9155.
Rocha said it is so important that they continue to operate, “because people need it, and Jesus says to provide. You’re to help everybody. You’re supposed to be witnesses to them.”
Refuge Ministries’ food bank at its Mission Casa campus is also serving the community at 306 Casa Dr. Church volunteers manned tables outside the building Saturday morning.
The food bank is open the fourth Saturday of each month starting at 11 a.m. and provides emergency food assistance to those who reside in low income housing areas and near Casa Drive or Sunset Lane.
Food provided through the food bank is provided by and purchased using donations from church members.
Cuong Le, who preaches at the Casa campus, was volunteering at the food bank Saturday morning.
He explained that with the grocery stores limiting the quantities of items purchased, the church members were having to go to the store more frequently and rely on the five other Refuge Ministries campuses in the Central Texas area.
The church members usually collect enough foods to feed an estimated 40 families each month.
“We do not look into your background. We do not ask you questions,” Le said. “Faith of God, hopefully you’re being honest with us and have some integrity. All we ask is that you fill out a sheet of paper saying how many people in your family and how many people you’re picking up for.”
For larger families, the amount of food is increased, he added.
Other changes made due to COVID-19 include having to set up outside and have everybody practice social distancing. Even with the changes made, Le said it’s important for the food bank to operate.
“To me it’s important- well, to us as a family, because our church community is a family, it’s important because we’re helping out people in the community,” Le said. “You know, it doesn’t matter what church you go to or what you believe in, whatever, it’s that you’re helping the people that actually are in need, so you’re giving back to the community.”
Le said the food bank would welcome donated items and financial donations. He encouraged those who wish to donate to make sure they included protein sources like canned tuna and beans. People can contact the Refuge Ministries staff at the main campus, located at 2602 South FM 116, by calling 254-547-3349, to find out where to drop off donations.